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Government Records and the Family Historian: Wills and probate

As a family historian, consider what information may be found in the Police, Education or Government Gazettes or hospital, electoral, probate, naturalisation or other government held records. This guide focuses mainly on South Australian resources.

What information could be included in a will?

While some wills are quite short, others are quite detailed.

A will may include details such as:

  • family members
  • bequests to people outside of the family
  • addresses of properties
  • lists of particular items
  • reveal family feuds
  • favourites and favours acknowledged

Copies of wills are held at the Probate Registry, Supreme Court.


Probate is the process of proving and registering a will in the Supreme Court the last Will. When a person dies there is usually an executor who administers the estate and handles the disposal of assets and debts. A family member, friend, lawyer or a trustee company such as the Public Trustee may be the administrator.

To obtain authority to do this a will needs to receive a 'Grant of Probate' - unless the value of the estate is very small.

If there is no will, or no will can be found, 'letters of administration' are granted by the court.

Wills and grants of probate are kept at the Supreme Court and are public documents.

The State Library has indexes of probates granted for particular years. Copies of wills can be obtained for a fee from the Probate Registry at the Supreme Court.

Indexes to wills

Where to access Wills

South Australia

The South Australian Probate Registry is located at the Supreme Court of South Australia


Each state in Australia has a Probate Registry

Public Trustee

Wills that have been administered by the Public Trustee are not held by the Probate Registry. For more details contact Public Trustee SA